Refrigerant (or Freon) is the blood in your AC system.
Without the right amount (too much can be as harmful as not enough), your system won’t cool your home properly.
But just because your AC is showing signs of low refrigerant doesn't necessarily mean you need more.
This issue of “needing refrigerant” is tricky and often confused with other AC problems (see how some contractors scam homeowners with Freon). That’s why, it’s important for a trusted tech to help you find and fix the real issue.
Before calling a professional, here are 4 common signs indicating that you may be missing refrigerant.
An AC that needs refrigerant will run longer and work harder to cool your home. Longer run times means higher energy bills.
Refrigerant absorbs heat from your home’s air and transfers it outside. Without the proper amount, your AC can't absorb enough heat to make your air feel cooler.
If you spot ice or frost anywhere on your AC, it may mean that your indoor unit’s evaporator coil is frozen. A system that needs a refrigerant charge can cause this but so can other AC problems.
If you hear a hissing or bubbling noise, chances are that it’s the sound of refrigerant escaping through a leak that’s pretty significant. Hissing means it's escaping in a gas form. Bubbling means liquid.
If you suspect you have a refrigerant leak or need a refrigerant charge, contact a professional for a diagnostics check.
But a word of warning: Refrigerant isn’t “used up” like gas in a car. If you are low on refrigerant, you have a leak in your AC system. The tech shouldn’t just add more refrigerant. Make sure they find the leak, evacuate the remaining refrigerant, repair the leak (if possible) and then add the appropriate amount of refrigerant for your system.
If the tech simply tops off your refrigerant without fixing the leak, it is a temporary solution and you will likely be in the same situation again soon.